For me this was an ideal mystery murder. You have the formerly rich but now impoverished family - father distant and not forbidding but just seems untouchable, motherless three daughters, Flavia our heroine brilliant, creative, innovative - two beastly sisters and an old faithful Dogger who seems to be the pivot of the household. Set in the 1950s and the timing was a severe winter, most picturesquely described that you could almost feel the freeze, the ice and the wind creeping around you whilst reading this book.
Flavia is a brilliant chemist with a razor sharp mind though just eleven. She has an affinity to solve murders through a method of deduction and logic more suited to someone triple her years. In this story the family home has been rented out for a film - with famous actors and actresses - it is also over the Christmas period and the cast have decided as a special treat to do a mini performance from Romeo and Juliet for the inhabitants of Bishop's Lacey. The performance proceeds not without its mishaps of lighting and ends in a storm of such proportions that everyone is forced to stay back at Buckshaws and wait out the snow which has made roads impassable.
This is when the murder occurs but Flavia has already planned and is ready to execute a trick to ensnare Santa Claus so that she can get to the bottom of the story as to who actually comes down the chimney. In addition to that she has experimented with various chemicals to have a fireworks display as well. No murder is going to stop her from attending to either of her plans!
The murder takes place and inquiries are also set in place - all this takes place within the confines of a single house as no one has been able or allowed to leave or enter the premises from the time the play commenced. This adds to the story. Since the story was confined only to the house, we can see Flavia's interaction with her immediate family, much more than in the previous stories. I still cannot understand the nastiness of the two sisters towards their youngest sister and am only hoping that at some stage this stops. I wonder whether the father is so blind that he does not realize what is happening under his own nose. Dogger is the only support that Flavia has and we see much more of him in this book. The behaviour of the sisters is not just tedious it is downright poisonous.
As usual I liked Flavia very much and enjoyed this book which was a bit shorter than the previous novels. A lovely read.